Removal of heavy metals from mine waters by natural zeolites

Environ Sci Technol. 2005 Jun 15;39(12):4606-13. doi: 10.1021/es048482s.


In this study, we investigated the removal of Fe, Pb, Cd, and Zn from synthetic mine waters by a natural zeolite. The emphasis was given to the zeolite's behavior toward a few cations in competition with each other. Pb was removed efficiently from neutral as well as from acidic solutions, whereas the uptake of Zn and Cd decreased with low pH and high iron concentrations. With increasing Ca concentrations in solution, elimination of Zn and Cd became poorer while removal of Pb remained virtually unchanged. The zeolite was stable in acidic solutions. Disintegration was only observed below pH 2.0. Forward- and back-titration of synthetic acidic mine water were carried out in the presence and absence of zeolite to simulate the effects of a pH increase by addition of neutralizing agents and a re-acidification which can be caused by subsequent mixing with acidic water. The pH increase during neutralization causes precipitation of hydrous ferric oxides and decreased dissolved metal concentrations. Zeolite addition further diminished Pb concentrations but did not have an effect on Zn and Cd concentrations in solution. During re-acidification of the solution, remobilization of Pb was weaker in the presence than in the absence of zeolite. No substantial differences were observed for Fe, Cd, and Zn immobilization. The immobilization of the metals during pH increase and the subsequent remobilization caused by re-acidification can be well described by a geochemical equilibrium speciation model that accounts for metal complexation at hydrous ferric oxides, for ion exchange on the zeolite surfaces, as well as for dissolution and precipitation processes.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Metals, Heavy / analysis
  • Metals, Heavy / chemistry*
  • Metals, Heavy / isolation & purification
  • Mining*
  • Models, Chemical
  • Spectrophotometry, Atomic
  • Waste Disposal, Fluid / methods*
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / analysis*
  • Water Purification / methods*
  • Zeolites / chemistry*


  • Metals, Heavy
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical
  • Zeolites